Well, well, well. GM Scott Pioli has finally gotten busy in this free agency rush. The Chiefs personnel boss needed to set his signing sights much higher than the talent targets he’s inked in the recent past. Players such as WR Zeke Markshausen, S Kyle McCarthy, CB Jacques Reeves and TE Jake O’Connell are little more than practice fodder and do nothing to entice the ticket-buying fan base to shell out extra greenbacks in Kansas City. Since the start of the free agent buying blitz, Pioli has given the KC fans a lot to get jacked-up about. WR Dwayne Bowe was noted with the player-dreaded franchise tag, and the two sides continue to work quietly on a long-term deal. Multi-talented RB Peyton Hillis was brought in for a look-see and never allowed to leave. Pioli got Hillis’ signature on a contract. That, friends, is a major upgrade from the game but aging 2011 version of Thomas Jones. ILB Jovan Belcher, serviceable run defender and restricted free agent, was tendered at second-round value and DL Amon Gordon was resigned as d-line depth. Pioli then brought in TE Kevin Boss for a visit and, as with Hillis, made it difficult for Boss to leave. The former Giant-Raider signed on and bolstered the tight end position for 2012. The biggest impact was made on March 17 when the Chiefs were able to hammer out a deal with the best RT on the open market, Eric Winston. Winston’s inking has the potential to propel the KC o-line into the upper bracket in the NFL. When you can trade in the butchering play of Barry Richardson for the top-shelf protection of Eric Winston from the right side of the line, it is a major addition. At the same time the Winston deal was getting done, Pioli quickly worked on improving the back-up QB spot by getting Bronco reserve Brady Quinn to commit. Now, Quinn is no star or a threat to incumbent QB Matt Cassel, but the former Browns no. 1 pick in 2007 is a huge upgrade over Tyler Palko. The only move that has the potential to be viewed as a set-back thus far is the loss of CB Brandon Carr to the Cowboys. In his place is ex-Raider corner Stanford Routt. Routt isn’t the player Carr has proven to be. Carr has improved each season with KC and seems primed to jump into top-corner status in 2012. But for now, we have to give props to Scott Pioli for bringing in not only players that ‘fit’, but quality talent at that. When you can trade Thomas Jones, Tyler Palko, Barry Richardson and Leonard Pope/Jake O’Connell for Peyton Hillis, Brady Quinn, Eric Winston and Kevin Boss/Tony Moeaki (returning from his 2011 injury), you can get the loyal and rabid KC fans amped=up about the 2012 season in a hurry.
Here is a rundown of the player movement and status as of 3/17:
SIGNED OR TENDERED: WR Dwayne Bowe got the dreaded franchise tag, Peyton Hillis (Clv) signed on, LB Jovan Belcher (RFA) received a 2nd round tender, DL Amon Gordon (UFA), CB Stanford Routt (Oak) signed, S Kyle McCarthy (2 games played in NE 2011), TE Kevin Boss (Oak), TE Jake O’Connell resigned, RT Eric Winston (Hou) signed
UNSIGNED OR NOT TENDERED: RB Jackie Battle (UFA), TE Anthony Becht (UFA), DB Travis Daniels (UFA), DE Wallace Gilberry (UFA), DL Kelly Gregg (UFA), RB Thomas Jones (UFA), S Reshard Langford (ERFA) not tendered by KC, S Jon McGraw (UFA), OT Ryan O’Callaghan (UFA), QB Tyler Palko (ERFA) not tendered by KC, S Sabby Piscitelli (UFA), TE Leonard Pope (UFA), OT Barry Richardson (UFA), WR Jerheme Urban (UFA), C Casey Wiegmann (UFA)
SIGNED ELSEWHERE: CB Brandon Carr (UFA) signed with Dal, FB Le’Ron McClain (UFA) signed with SD, QB Kyle Orton (UFA) signed with Dal, ILB Demarrio Williams signed with SD,
IN FOR VISITS:
RB Mike Tolbert (SD) met with the Chiefs brass on the 3/15. No deal was struck, however the meeting went. Keep Mike Tolbert on the KC radar, especially with Jamaal Charles returning from major knee surgery. UPDATE: TOLBERT SIGNED ON WITH CAROLINA 3/19.
DE/DT Luis Castillo (SD) visited on 3/9; no contract offered and Castillo moved on.
OT Marcus McNeill (SD) is set for a workout soon with the Chiefs. He has yet to be signed, but is very much an option, even with the securing of Eric Winston. McNeill would allow the Chiefs to move LT Brandon Albert inside to LG, and also create leverage as Albert heads into his contract year in 2012.
REACT ON THE SIGNINGS: HC Romeo Crennel on TE Kevin Boss: ''We are excited about the opportunity to make Kevin a member of the Kansas City Chiefs. Kevin has been a part of successful teams in the past and knows what it takes to win. I am eager to add him to our offense.''
TE Kevin Boss: "Having an opportunity to talk with (offensive coordinator Brian Daboll) and the whole offensive staff, they sold me on what they’re doing here. I was kind of going down the roster and looked at all the talent, young talent. The offensive weapons are exciting, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it."
RB Peyton Hillis: "I’m excited about being here. Along with Jamaal Charles and Dexter McCluster in the backfield, I think it will be a huge backfield and we’ll do really great things. Coach Daboll and I have a really great relationship. I know the playbook. It seems like a perfect fit,’’
RT Eric Winston, on leaving the Texans: "Basically, they (Texans) told me they were up against it (the salary cap) and didn’t want to insult me by asking me to take a pay cut," Winston told the Houston Chronicle last week. "They said they hated to do it and maybe we could work something out down the road, but, well, I’m just stunned. I didn’t want to leave."
More Winston: "I had offers, but at the end of the day, it came down to what they (Chiefs) can be and me wanting to be a part of it."
An interesting side- note regarding Hillis and Quinn now playing on the same team in 2012. Both players were essentially traded for each other a couple of seasons ago when Quinn was sent to the Broncos in exchange for Hillis to the Browns. Also of note is that both players have history with (no, not Scott Pioli via NE) OC Brian Daboll. Hillis’ career-year in 2010 (over 1100 yards rushing, 61 catches, double-digit TDs) happened under DaBoll’s watch in Cleveland. Quinn got to know DaBoll’s playbook as a reserve with the Browns before being dealt for Hillis.
THE DRAFT: Scott Pioli has successfully bolstered the backfield, o-line, TE and QB positions by signing Peyton Hillis, Eric Winston, Kevin Boss and Brady Quinn for 2012. Those key moves changes the direction in which the Chiefs will focus on in the 2012 draft. The early outlook had the Chiefs leaning toward taking a blue-chip type o-lineman like Michael Adams (Ohio St.), Jonathan Martin (Stanford) or Riley Reiff (Iowa). Now the focus appears to be on the defensive side of the ball, namely DT/NT. Many have their eyes trained on Combine star Dontari Poe. I hope this is not the course Pioli and crew are setting. Poe’s impressive work without pads should not blind smart football men who watched the Memphis nose tackle’s game tape. In college, the 348 pounder often found himself on the ground, slow to recover and offered little effort once locked and blocked. While Poe didn’t play on a great team and did post some attractive tackle stats (those for a loss in particular), he just doesn’t ‘show’ as a high motor, intense interior presence as say, BJ Raji in Green Bay or Baltimore’s Haloti Ngata. KC may already have a player in the house that can bring it at NT; 2011 6th round pick Jerrell Powe. Powe has the size/strength ensemble and was all-SEC second team two years in a row at Ole Miss. Playing 2-gap nose takes time to learn and let’s keep in mind that the rookie nose tackle had little-to- no off-season prep with the CBA turmoil and lockout in 2011. Powe, with a full off-season of work, could develop into a solid player in 2012. Here’s hoping The Chiefs’ brass turns their attentions to the defensive backfield or linebacker spot, and then focus on the nose tackle issue later in the draft.
EARLY FANTASY OUTLOOK: The Chiefs appear to be moving forward to a more conservative, run-tough scheme for 2012. The o-line is shaping up into a solid ground support unit, with the ability to pass protect well enough. New OC Brian Daboll has not been one to fill the Sunday air with footballs in the past. Peyton Hillis brings power running and check down receiving capabilities, and TE Kevin Boss is a good blocking end with effective receiving skills. Add in the return from injury of Tony Moeaki, the size matchups of Dwayne Bowe and Jonathan Baldwin at receiver and the slot skills of Steve Breaston, and QB Matt Cassel’s job for 2012 is "take care of the football". Any fantasy footballer counting on RB Jamaal Charles to return to his explosive, pre-knee injury self in 2012 is spinning wheels. Now, lots can and will happen between now and kickoff of week one, but the early vibe from Arrowhead HQ is the offense will keep it conservative, the defense will work to keep the opposition close and allow Cassel and company to make a play or two to win.
Next month I’ll have a real good feel for what the Chiefs will be looking at in the draft. And let’s get ready for those Broncos, who now will have Peyton Manning doing his pre-read gyrations for Denver. As always, the NFL off-season is anything but OFF.